Roadside Dining – Minnesota
Roadside Dining – Minnesota
Roadside Tails Drive In Restaurants

The roadside restaurant industry emerged in the 1920s. Before World War I (1914-1918), automobiles were less common, and opportunities to get meals on the road were few and far between. Between 1920 and 1930, cars in the United States increased from eight million to twenty-three million. More cars meant more travel, and along with the increase came thousands of roadside barbeque shacks, ice cream stands, and diners. These roadside restaurants and stands catered to motorists, travelers, and tourists. One brand that arrived on the scene in the mid-1920s was Howard Johnson ice cream stands in Boston, which evolved into the hotel and restaurant chain. 

In 1921, J.G. Kirby and Dr. Reuben W. Jackson opened the first drive-in restaurant off a busy highway in Dallas, Texas. Known as the Texas Pig Stand, they served barbequed pork, and Coca-Colas brought to people's vehicles by tray boys. 

In 1919, Roy Allen introduced a delicious root beer recipe. Shortly after, he opened a root beer stand on a busy corner in Lodi, California, and was quenching Americans' thirst at the height of prohibition. By 1920, he had multiple root beer stands around California offering full carhop service. These stands are known today as A&W, which combined the first initial of the owners' last names Allen and Wright. By 1933, the company was the nation's first drive-in restaurant chain with 171 restaurants across the United States. 

As drive-ins increased in their popularity in the 1940s and 1950s, so did their technological advancements. Cars pulled into parking spaces at the drive-in restaurants with individual menus and speakers. Carhops often in flashy outfits, and some on roller skates took orders and delivered meals. 

Drive-in restaurants continued to thrive in the 1960s and 1970s and became popular culture through television and films. American Graffiti captured the drive-in restaurant landscape, sound, and feel exceptionally well. As a result, Mel's Drive-In (founded 1947) in San Francisco, California, became legendary

Twin Cities Metro and Minnesota Drive-In Restaurants 

Clays Galaxy Drive-In (Location opened 1951) 
3712 Quebec Ave South (Just West of Louisiana Ave on Hwy 7)
Saint Louis Park, Minnesota 55426

Clays Galaxy Drive In | via websie
Clays Galaxy Drive In

If you like tacky space-age themes, this is the place! Initially opened in 1951, this drive-in has gone through several changes over the years. Initially opened as the Dairy Mor, this space became Bud's Bug Boy, then the Oak Hill Drive-In, and eventually became Wagner's Drive-In. Try the Dreamsicle Float and some deep-fried pickles while you're there. Be sure to bring your dog for a free ice cream cone. 

Dari-ette Drive-In (1966) 
1440 Minnehaha Ave E 
St Paul, Minnesota 55106 
Dari-ette Drive-In

Dari-ette Drive-In via Facebook Page

St. Paul's East Side Italian American drive-in serves pizza burgers, meatball subs, fried chicken, Italian favorites like spaghetti and rigatoni, and don't miss the signature Dillee bars. The Dari-ette offers take-home spaghetti sauce in pint, quart, and gallon sizes. If you're chasing the best ice cream related treats, try the fresh banana malts. 

The Drive-In (1956) 
572 Bench St 
Taylors Falls, Minnesota 

Taylors Falls Drive In via their website
The Drive-In at Taylors Falls

Looking for an excellent road trip to enjoy Minnesota's beauty and indulge in some nostalgia while sipping homemade root beer? This drive-in is the place for you. There's a gigantic Frostop Root Beer mug rotating to welcome you, and the poodle skirted carhops will enhance your experience. Try a bison burger for a change of pace; add a butterscotch milkshake or a root beer float to your meal too. While you're there, play a quick round of miniature golf. While you're in the area, drive over and see the Franconia Sculpture Park and spend some time along the St. Croix River. 

Extending your trip to Wisconsin? The Vitalis family also operates the Grantsburg Drive-In (133 Hwy 70, Grantsburg, WI 715-463-2056 and the Milltown Drive-In (125 Main St W, Milltown, WI 715-825-3389)

Minnetonka Drive-In (1961 as an A&W) 
4658 Shoreline Drive 
Spring Park, Minnesota 
Minnetonka Drive-In 

Minnetonka Drive-In via their website
Minnetonka Drive-In

Opened in 1961 as an A&W, this location is an excellent reminder of summer fun around Lake Minnetonka. This drive-in also makes their root beer, and theirs offers a hint of vanilla that makes for a divine root beer float. You'll likely recognize the A&W Papa Burger influence in the Minnetonka Twin burger. Some wonderful surprises on the menu include slow barbeque roasted ribs, sloppy joe, and a surprisingly tasty fish and chips. Easy access to the Dakota Rail Regional Trail if you're looking to walk dogs or ride bikes. 

Peppermint Twist (1957 as an A&W) 
115 Babcock Boulevard 
Delano, Minnesota 
Peppermint Twist 

Peppermint Twist (Facebook Page)
Peppermint Twist (Facebook Page)

Head west until you see a hot-pink drive-in decked in teddy bears and candy swirls. There's a fun play area for children called The Teddy Bear Park too. The must-try on their menu is the raspberry shakes. While you're enjoying the raspberry shake, add some onion rings, the Smoke House bacon cheddar burger, and sumptuously topped hot dogs. Bring cash! 

Sonic Drive-In
Sonic Drive-In (Founded 1953) 
(Various locations throughout the United States) 

Sonic Drive-In exterior of restaurant.
Sonic Drive In new design

Based in Oklahoma, Sonic Drive-In has roughly 3,500 locations across the United States. While not in the same vein as the traditional mom-and-pop shops, Sonic is easy in and out stop when traveling with your dogs. The burgers and hot dogs are equal to or better than the essential fast food places. They serve breakfast, but it's not an in-depth menu, burritos, egg sandwiches, and French Toast Sticks. There is a Secret Menu with some exciting options on it. Having lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma as a child, I like the Frito Pie. Also consider the Grilled Ham & Cheese, Dr. Pepper Orgasm (Dr. Pepper, Lemonade and Poweraid), Purple Sprite (Powerade, lemonade, sprite, and cranberry juice), Sonic Sunrise (Orange Juice and cherry limeade), Pickle-O's (deep-fried pickles.) You can always jazz up a burger, too; two favorites are the Thousand Island Jr Cheeseburger and the Super Sonic Jalapeno Cheeseburger. 

Wagner's Drive-In (the 1970s) 
7000 W Broadway
Brooklyn Park, Minnesota 
Wagner's Drive-In 

Wagner's Drive-In

Wagner's Drive-In has you covered for burgers, broasted chicken, fried chicken, and root beer floats. The surprise foods here for tasty treats are soups and chili. This location began as a food delivery business for car salespeople at a local dealership. This location has a car show and cruise called the Wag-Niters Car Club (opens in new window); check the link for additional information.